David Barton Gets Called Out By Jon Stewart

    May 2, 2012
    Amanda Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

David Barton is a “historical reclamationist”, which means he takes things from our nation’s history and “reclaims” them; in other words, changes them around to his liking. He recently wrote a book called The Jefferson Lies: Exposing The Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, and went on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to promote it. What resulted was a very interesting discussion, not only about Jefferson and his beliefs, but about Barton’s claims and the fact that he is not a “historian” in the technical sense of the word.

Barton said in the interview that one of the biggest misconceptions about Jefferson is that he was an atheist–although some who are versed on the topic say they don’t recall that ever being an issue–and the entire point of his book seems to be geared towards proving Jefferson wasn’t an atheist, but rather approved of the mixture of religion and public life.

The first part of the interview deals with this subject, but Stewart steers the conversation towards religion and the integration/separation of it and state. As he talks, Barton gets more and more political, which causes some to believe political motivation is the entire reason he does what he does, rather than a genuine interest in history. Stewart calls Barton out several times for going back on previous statements and making false claims, which Barton brushes off.

The interview is quite long–about 40 minutes–but if you have the time, watch the entire thing.

  • jonathan

    If you call verifying everything with original documents ‘changing things around to his liking’ then i guess he is.

  • Diamondback

    I think the author of this article is full of shit! Any “reclamationisM” is being done by the communist trolls who only lie when they’re lips move.

    • Diamondback

      Oops. That should’ve been “their” not “they’re”.

  • Teresa

    David Barton takes ACTUAL documentation, i.e. historical writings from and about our Founding Fathers to get his information. He in no way is attempting to rewrite the history to validate his own opinion but rather reaches his conclusions from fact. The writer of this article should do a bit more research prior to calling someone a liar. David Barton is very well educated on the subject and factual findings of the foundation of our nation. He is simply trying to educate those who will listen so things don’t run any further amok.

  • Eileen


  • Sherri


  • Lewis Skolnick

    Um, you guys know you can use “ACTUAL” historical documents and still distort and take them out of context? An example :

    Barton’s quote: Religion . . . [is] the basis and foundation of government. — James Madison

    Actual quote: Because finally, “the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his RELIGION according to the dictates of conscience” IS held by the same tenure with all our other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consult the “Declaration of those rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as THE BASIS AND FOUNDATION OF GOVERNMENT, it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather studied emphasis.

    http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_religions43. (number 15 for the above quote)

    But hey! He did use an ACTUAL historical document, just vastly distorted it. And that’s only one of the many fine examples of his shoddy workmanship. He’s full of some truth, but mostly distortion; he’s a revisionist and an ideologue. Real historians(which he refuses to ever debate) don’t dismiss this guy due politics or beliefs, it has more to with him manipulating the texts or ignoring context to support his points, and all too frequently. Hopefully this isn’t too long, cause it looks like it’s gonna be (at least it isn’t in all caps). And no, I’m not a “communist”, part of the “liberal media” or a “left wing nut”.

  • Tokyo

    Barton sounds reasonable but when you look up what he’s talking about, you discover that he has either made it up or distorted it heavily.

    For example, take the “five year old” kid who was “physically” yanked out of his chair and yelled at by a teacher for praying over his lunch. The truth: it was 20 years ago, it was a ten-year-old kid named Raymond Raines, and he was not disciplined for praying but for fighting with other students; the story was distorted and used as a political weapon in the 90’s by Newt Gingrich, and has been used (with details like the kid’s age and how he was handled varying from telling to telling) and retold by the likes of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, hardly known for their own reliability when it comes to accuracy.

    Another canard in Barton’s appearance is the lie about atheists constantly claiming Jefferson as an atheist who hated religion. Mainstream atheists hold that Jefferson was a deist, rejected the superstitious elements of the bible, and felt that separation of church and state were/are necessary to ensure religious freedom. I am sure that there are misguided people in any group, including atheists, who believe all kinds of stuff, but this is not an area where mainstream atheists are misguided. Barton uses this as a straw man.

    Other stuff he said in the interview I could not track down, but sounded easily false, like the people arrested for handing out bibles because they did not have a parade permit. I would bet good money that people in these towns would be arrested for handing out anything on a street corner without a permit; that would not be persecution of religion, but a simple city ordinance to prevent citizens from being harassed while walking down the street.

    Basically, Barton is full of it, using his “researched” “facts” out of context to tell knowing lies. Call it what you want, “based on a true story” or whatever, it’s still fiction.

  • Lewis Skolnick

    Yeah, right on, Yokyo. So keep on with you inquiries and search for truth, you seem to have it right. Jefferson introduced his own bible, lacking what he felt as superstitions, without miracles, and the true interpretation of Jesus. He even founded the first liberal arts college in the USA, the University of Virginia, and, apparently, still has no theology offerings, per Jeffersons wishes (whether that be right or wrong, it does have comparative religions). If you want a historian who really pokes at Barton’s inherent wrongness, just look for Chris Rodda, she has begged him for a debate, yet he refuses. I wonder why. Yeah, the answer to that is obvious, he is wrong, even if his views have a slight, very slight, morsel of truth.

  • Gary

    The aurguement is about belief v. fact. Court and science and state deal with fact. Politicians and religion exercise belief. We teach fact in school and we govern based on fact. Speculation is not recognize in Court of Law, only testimony of fact agreed upon.

  • Doug Indeap

    Barton again? This zealot’s “work” has been so thoroughly, repeatedly, and authoritatively debunked by so many who have demonstrated it to be riddled with slipshod research, shoddy analysis, and downright dishonestly that I can but wonder how anyone can refer to him as an “authority” on this subject without turning red from embarrassment. Perhaps the handiest debunking is Chris Rodda’s book, Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History (2006) (available free on line http://www.liarsforjesus.com/), where she conveniently collects and directly refutes his many mistakes and lies. The irony is that, by knowingly, repeatedly resorting to lies, this would-be champion of a religious right version of history reveals his fears that the real facts fall short of making his case. His own lying is perhaps the best evidence that his overall thesis is wrong.